Soundtrack Slice #2 – Arachnid Anthem

A quick side note: Whilst this is a series, I have no plans for any regularity when it comes to posting each instalment. Apologies for that. I have a lot of them planned, but as to when they’ll be written and put out there, don’t hold your breath.

Some proper etiquette stuff first. I am duty-bound by the unwritten rules of the internet to inform you that this post will include SPOILERS for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but keep your hair on, the scene I am going to talk about is basically inconsequential to the plot. However, proceed at your own risk.

#2 – You’re That Spider Guy
Artist: Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six
Film: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released to hardly any critical fanfare. Most movie-goers were also displeased, seeing the newest entry in a series no-one really asked for as perpetuation of the shameless cash-in sensibility that haunted the previous film. It didn’t help that the story was all over the place at times, bringing worrying flashbacks of the sprawling mess of Spider-Man 3. Being a Spidey fan since my childhood has meant that even though I have enjoyed the film upon first viewing, I have withheld my opinion until a second viewing in the hope that I can get past my adoration of the web-head enough to cast a proper critical eye over this second (fifth?) outing. What can I say? I’m not a professional critic.

What I am in no doubt about is the final scene of the film, which for my money encompasses everything that I loved from the 90s animated series, and therefore what I love about Spider-man; Peter Parker’s connection with the average New Yorker, his quips even in grim circumstances, and some well-choreographed action. To refresh your memory, Parker has given up his part-time superhero job in the wake of a tragedy, but the city still needs his heroics as is made evident by the reappearance of Rhino. I’m not entirely sure how he manages to pop up again but hey-ho. Rhino robs a bank and is slowed down by the police, but they’re horribly out-gunned. Cue a kid in Spidey garb who has clearly been raised on too much TV (I can relate) to slip the barricades and stand-up to the mechanized menace. The child looks like he’s about to become an ex-child, until someone shows up in the nick of time.

The music up to this point has been fairly quiet, starting with some melancholic strings to echo the dire straits that the city is in. When we cut to Andrew Garfield musing over his mask, there is subdued brass which starts to build – the echoes of heroism don’t have to remain echoes. Upon rejoining Rhino’s rampage the music carries some weight, like his heavy footsteps breaking the road, mixed with some distortion fitting of this mechanical interpretation. I like this because the score matches what we’re seeing and everyone gets their own theme or motif (not sure which one it is – I’m not musically educated enough).

Right before our hero decides to turn up, there’s a well-placed moment of silence, a moment of stillness as the onlookers and police regain hope that they will be saved. As Spidey takes charge of the situation, the small brass voice returns to the background and starts to swell. You can sense the build-up, the anticipation of the beat-down that is about to be unleashed. The tempo quickens, the music comes alive.

At the moment Spider-Man leaps into action in glorious slo-mo, there is an explosion of brass leading into triumphant fanfare as he deflects missiles in one smooth motion, and then whirls to meet Rhino’s oncoming charge. The final cut of the film is beautifully timed. The first fanfare ends with a double thud right at the moment when the manhole cover connects with Rhino’s face. It’s akin to leaving the film on an explosion. Boom. Roll credits.

The score continues past the cut to black with another fanfare, cementing the return of Spidey to his city-rescuing ways, and even though we don’t see the conclusion to the fight, we’re left in no doubt who won. Rhino is toast.

The placement of all of this – the scene and the score – is rather clever. By ending with such aplomb, the film may have won back some of the nay-sayers who found they weren’t enjoying it so much. It’s certainly there to leave you wanting more so that when sequel announcements surface, you might be less inclined to get angry at Sony Pictures. They’re a crafty corporation indeed.

Regardless of any issues that you might have with the film – and I’m sure there are many – this final scene is a perfect pairing of sound and vision. The score tells the story of the scene and evokes the appropriate emotions at the right times, so credit to Hans Zimmer and his supergroup for closing the film in resounding fashion.

Did this final scene work for you? What tracks from films have stuck in your mind? Feel free to wax lyrical in the comments below.

Transatlantic Trickery – The Parent Trap (1998) Review

The Parent Trap posterI miss you, Concorde. The skies aren’t the same without you, and neither would the saccharine ending of The Parent Trap be the same without your supersonic capabilities. If that isn’t reason enough for it to make a return, I don’t know what is. Seriously Disney, buy Concorde.

First things first, The Parent Trap is a significant film for its leading lass, Lindsay Lohan, as this was her big screen début. With the days of adolescent trouble merely a glimmer on the murky horizon, she embodies that fresh-faced innocence that so many of the great child actors possess, all smiles and sweetness. But it’s not just her adorability that she has to rely on for her first role (or two). Being asked to play twins is no easy task and certainly a challenge for an actress so young, yet she pulls it off with ease transitioning smoothly from well-spoken Brit to laid-back American. Speaking of the duplication on display, the effects team are deserving of praise for replicating Lohan seamlessly so that the question of ‘How?’ never lingers long in the mind.

Lohan plays the identical twins – separated at birth, one for each parent – who inadvertently reunite at Camp Walden where they initially clash but when forced to room together figure out what their parents never bothered to tell them. Strange parenting if you ask me, keeping each twin in the dark, so what of these parents?

We’re told from the opening scene that they met and married on the QE2, borne on a sea of romantic dinners and swing music – who wouldn’t want to get hitched with all that going on?! But their separation, shrouded in mystery for most of the runtime, has taken them back to their respective homelands where they have become rich and successful, never even thinking to mention the other’s existence to their half of the twins. It’s all seems a bit flimsy but it doesn’t matter because they are such charming people, lovingly devoted to their respective child. The performances of Natasha Richardson (seemingly channelling a bit of Emma Thompson) and Dennis Quaid are spot on for endearment and by the time we’ve got to know both of them the only question we’re left with is, “Why aren’t these two together?!” followed by, “They should be together!”.

"Elementary, my dear Lohan."

“Elementary, my dear Lohan.”

Which leads me to a few minor grumbles. There’s a staggering amount of wealth on display, on both sides of the Atlantic: A butler?! A London town house?! A mansion?! An expansive vineyard and ranch?! I find it hard to think that many kids will relate to that standard of living. This fortune also creates the film’s villainess played by Elaine Hendrix – a Hollywood starlet on the outside and mean gold-digger on the inside. She wouldn’t be here if Quaid’s wine was corked, so it’s pleasing to find that she’s just the right amount of haughty and beauty. As mentioned, the back-story that holds the plot together is also a little weak, and we’re never explicitly told what tore these two utterly wonderful people apart. It must have been something truly awful.

However, to the film’s credit, this hazy nature of past events is in keeping with one of the themes of the story – forgiving the past and letting bygones be bygones. The disagreement of the parents was 11 years ago, whatever anger sparked it has all but faded, leaving the strong presence of why they fell in love in the first place. Reinforcing this is the great double performance of Lohan, whose rosy outlook brightens every scene and forces her estranged parents to remember the good.

And there’s a lot of good; the film is stuffed with charm and humour, from Jesse’s tearful realisation to a man in a suit and bowler hat cycling past the London home. The latter being a childlike stereotype but never out of step with the sunny world of the film. It’s basically like a warm hug.

At its centre The Parent Trap has a big heart even if its thick candy coating is sometimes hard to swallow. It’s hardly a surprise though and is what we’ve come to expect from Disney – fairytale endings that leave a smile on your face. A paraphrasing of the last lines sums it up pretty well:

“…c’mon, Nick, what do you expect? To live happily ever after?”